Allowances in building and construction

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There are allowances for employees working in the building and construction industry. These come from an award or a registered agreement.

Find out about allowances in the Building and Construction Award.

Understanding allowances

Allowances are additional payments made to an employee’s hourly rate of pay for time worked or as a separate amount. These can include allowances for:

  • tools
  • meals
  • travel.

All employees covered by the Building and Construction Award get an industry allowance.

Tip: Registered agreements

This page covers allowances under the Building and Construction Award.

Sometimes employees are covered by a registered agreement and not an award.

If you think you’re covered by a registered agreement, search the Fair Work Commission database for it: Find an agreement. Check to see what it says about allowances and what applies.

Under the award, there are separate allowances for those working in the:

  • general building and construction sector
  • civil and engineering sector
  • metal and engineering construction
  • residential building and construction sector.

An employee may get other allowances depending on where they work and the specific duties they perform. For more information, see Allowances.

Tip: Use our Pay and Conditions Tool

Calculate your allowances under an award by using our free Pay and Conditions Tool.

The tool can calculate all award allowances, including tools, meals and travel allowances. This includes under the Building and Construction Award.

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Expense-related allowances

There are 3 main expense-related allowances under the Building and Construction Award:

Tool allowance

An employee required to have standard tools of trade for work gets a tool allowance. The allowance is different depending on the type of trade.

When other tools must be used, the employer must:

  • provide the tools, or
  • reimburse an employee if the employee agrees to provide it.

Check and calculate tool allowances by using our Pay and Conditions Tool.

Example: Employee entitled to tool allowance

Tom employs different tradespersons including carpenters and painters to work at construction sites. Tom’s employees are required to have their own standard tools to complete work on-site.

Tom knows there are tool allowances in the building and construction industry, but he doesn’t know the rates that apply.

Tom uses the Pay and Conditions Tool to work out the allowances to pay his employees. He learns that there are different tool allowances in the Building and Construction Award, depending on the employees’ trade.

After using the tool, he understands that he will need to pay his carpenters a higher allowance than his painters.

Tom explains to his employees where the tool allowance comes from and why their pay may be different to their workmates.

Protective clothing and equipment allowance

An employer must provide necessary protective clothing and equipment, except for safety boots. An employer must reimburse an employee if the employee agrees to provide their own protective gear.

An employee may wear steel cap safety boots because it’s required by their employer or by law. Where this happens, an employer must repay the employee for the cost of the boots. Subject to fair wear and tear, the employer must replace the boots every 6 months if required or sooner by agreement.

Example: Employer providing protective clothing

Amanda is a painter and employs other painters to work with her. They all usually work in the residential construction industry and there is no uniform requirement. There’s no need for the painters to wear protective clothing or equipment.

Amanda wins a commercial contract for work on a larger construction site that has plant, equipment, and cranes in operation. The law says that all workers must wear a hi-vis vest and hard hat when they work at a commercial worksite.

Amanda must supply her employees with the necessary protective gear when they work at the new worksite.

Reimbursement for damage or loss of personal items

An employer must reimburse an employee if their personal items get damaged at work by corrosive or harmful substances. These personal items can include:

  • clothing
  • glasses
  • hearing aids
  • tools.

Corrosive or harmful substances include:

  • acid
  • sulfur
  • fire
  • molten metal.

Employees are also entitled to be reimbursed for tools that are stolen while stored on-site or at the employer’s premises.

Example: Tools stolen from a worksite

Jason is a carpenter working on a residential construction site. As part of this work, Jason is required to maintain many power tools. These tools are too bulky to transport home each day.

Jason’s employer, Stefano, directs him to store these tools overnight on-site. This is because the tools would take too long to set-up and dismantle at the beginning and end of each day’s work.

Overnight, the worksite is broken into and some of Jason’s tools are stolen. Jason provides Stefano with a list of what was taken and they file a police report.

Jason then replaces the tools that were stolen and is reimbursed by Stefano for the cost.

The replacement value also applies in the case of fire:

  • occurring on a worksite, or
  • at the employer’s premises where tools are stored.
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Meal allowance

Most employees get a meal allowance after working 1.5 hours of overtime.

An employee who is operating plant and equipment gets a meal allowance for each 4 hours of overtime worked.

Example: Meal allowance

Oscar and Sam work for a concreting company and are both covered by the Building and Construction Award. Oscar is a concrete paver and Sam operates a concrete pump.

The pair both work 2 hours overtime on Tuesday.

Oscar gets a meal allowance because he worked more than 1.5 hours of overtime.

As Sam is an operator employee, he doesn’t get a meal allowance because he’s worked less than 4 hours of overtime.

For more information on meal allowances while living away from home on distant work, see Living away from home.

Vehicle and travel allowances

Given the nature of the construction industry, where an employee’s work site changes during the stages or completion of construction, they may be entitled to several different travel allowances.

These include for:

Tip: Check out our Library

Do you know we have a Library of technical workplace information?

It has more information on allowances and award entitlements for the building and construction industry.

Travelling to and from work

An employee may get the daily fares and travel pattern allowance if work starts and finishes at a construction site. It also applies if the employee does pre-fabricated work at a depot and then erects it on-site that same day.

An employee may get the distant work payment instead if the construction site is more than 50km from their home.

Fares and travel costs

An employee gets this daily allowance if work starts and finishes at a construction site.

An employee doesn’t get this allowance if the employer:

  • offers or arranges for someone else to pick up and drop off the employee, or
  • provides a fully maintained work vehicle free of charge.

An employee entitled to distant work pay won’t get this allowance.

Example: Daily fares and travel allowance

Sang is a painter. He starts and finishes work at building sites.

Sang is required to drive himself to work on Mondays. He gets picked up and dropped off by his employer for the rest of the week.

Sang gets the fares and travel pattern allowance on Mondays. He doesn’t get this allowance for the rest of the week because his employer drives him.

Distant work

Distant work in the Building and Construction Award occurs when:

  • a construction site is located outside the 50km radius of the GPO (the main general post office in a capital city) or principal post office where the employee lives
  • an employee is required to travel more than 50km by road to and from their home to the construction site.

This entitlement doesn’t apply to an employee if the first construction site was more than 50km from their home when they hired by their employer.

An employee performing distant work gets:

  • payment for reasonable time spent travelling outside ordinary working hours, rounded to the next quarter of an hour with a minimum payment of 30 minutes per day for each return trip
  • reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses incurred (if the employee uses their own vehicle, an allowance is paid for each kilometre travelled).

An employee getting distant work pay doesn’t get the daily fares and travel pattern allowance.

Example: Distant work pay

Zach is a roof tiler and employs several employees.

Zach and his employees all live in the same area. The roofing jobs are usually local, but his next contract is 75km away and it will take 60 minutes to drive there. The building site is also located outside the 50km radius of their local post office.

Zach will drive all employees to and from the worksite in the work truck. He picks them up from their homes.

Zach’s employees get their usual hourly rate for time spent travelling to the worksite. He doesn’t need to pay them for travel expenses.

Travelling during work

Travelling between work sites during work hours is paid work time.

If the employer doesn’t provide transport, the employee will get paid time and:

  • an allowance to cover the reasonable cost of public transport between the sites, or
  • a vehicle allowance if the employee uses their own vehicle.

To work out the allowance, use our Pay and Conditions Tool.

Example: Travelling between work sites

Cabe is a carpenter who works for a medium-sized building company with several different sites.

Cabe has been working at one site for most of the week. One afternoon, he is asked to help at another site.

Cabe’s boss, Mitch, asks him to drive his ute to the other site so Mitch can take the work trailer with him.

Cabe gets his usual hourly rate for time spent travelling between the worksites. He also gets a vehicle allowance because he uses his own car.

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Living away from home

An employee gets living away from home allowance if the worksite is too far to return home each day.

An employee who qualifies for the living away from home distant work entitlement will:

  • get the higher of:
    • the living away from home allowance, or
    • reimbursement for all reasonable accommodation and meal expenses
  • be provided with accommodation including 3 adequate meals a day, or
  • be provided with accommodation and reimbursement for all reasonable meal expenses.

If the employee is living in camp, they get all board and accommodation for free.

Example: Living away from home

Taylor is a road worker in Adelaide.

Taylor’s next worksite is part of major highway repairs on a stretch near Woomera in the state’s north.

Woomera is over 500km from his home. Taylor is unable to travel to and from his home to the new worksite each day.

Taylor’s employer, Jo, organises a short-term rental for him and some other employees to share in town while they are away.

Taylor won’t receive an allowance for accommodation while on distant work as suitable accommodation was provided.

Because the short-term rental has cooking facilities, Jo gives Taylor and the other employees the option of cooking for themselves or eating out. Jo will then reimburse them at the end of the week for their expenses.

Tools and resources

Related information

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